Greater Toronto is a big place — so why is World Carfree Day so tiny? Cities around the world restrict traffic on many kilometres of roadway one day a year. Some even shut major streets every week to promote the idea that cities can be enjoyed — simply by walking and biking in areas normally reserved for driving.
Canadians happily fill streets when given the chance — look at Taste of the Danforth or any of Toronto’s world-class events and parades. And yet GTA efforts to mark World Carfree Day tomorrow are modest and scattered.
The City of Toronto and the Sierra Club host an event at Dundas Square. A short section of Yonge Street will be opened to the people. Mississauga is holding a bike race amid Smart Commute Week, and other GTA jurisdictions have contests.
I’m not suggesting the organizers of these local events should be taken to task or they’re somehow not radical enough. You need the support of municipal councils — and often car-friendly road departments. That takes patience.
It’s the Canadian way, I suppose — a gradual, polite effort to remind everyone that driving is not always in our best interest. But if New York City can hand over a major road like Park Avenue to bikers and walkers for three Sundays a year, we can, too.
And commuters may need a more consistent message — it’s time to co-ordinate World Carfree Day with “Clean Air Day” and the National Commuter Challenge — both held earlier in the year.
Sure, the whole idea of reducing car use provokes a few motorists to unreasonable anger; and there is a huge practical challenge: The GTA’s transit systems are crammed during rush hour.
But let’s get serious and support the idea that our quality of life can improve when we drive less.
For local events, see www.smartcommute.ca/carfreeday — and also visit worldcarfree.net. If you already ride transit to work, why not use it tomorrow evening, too?